Victoria’s Secret Shanghai show – the Angels, the controversies, the fall and the US$2 million Fantasy Bra
The world’s number one underwear show made its Chinese debut, and it wasn’t short of drama, from Ming Xi’s stumble to Katy Perry and Gigi Hadid’s visa problems, and, of course, the Victoria’s Secret Angels and their outfits
Looking like a young Mick Jagger, Harry Styles shook and swayed his way across the Victoria’s Secret stage as the famous Angels sauntered in extravagant, barely-there costumes at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
Toned, tanned and sylphlike, the Victoria’s Secret Angels in Shanghai were a mix of regulars including Adriana Lima, Bella Hadid, Cindy Bruna, Stella Maxwell and Chinese models Liu Wen and Sui He as well as newcomers like Gizele Oliveira and Samile Bermannelli.
Karlie Kloss made a triumphant return to the catwalk, whilst Hadid (without fellow supermodel sister Gigi) donned a saucy black lace bra and panties and a plume of bright blue feathers – and this is the year that Hadid officially gets her Angel wings (a VS model’s status runs from regular model who has to audition each time to official Angels who don’t).
A buxom, toned Candice Swanepoel made a glorious return to the catwalk after the birth of her first child a year ago. South American beauties and Victoria’s Secret favourites Alessandra Ambrosio and Lima shook a tail feather (quite literally in those outfits), delighting screaming fans.
Katy Perry was supposed to be performing, but was reportedly denied a visa. So it was up to Harry Styles, along with American singers Miguel and Leslie Odom Jnr, Chinese pop star Jane Zhang (often dubbed China’s Britney Spears) and pianist Li Yundi, to get the crowds moving.
In Shanghai, group cheers could be heard from backstage as the Angels slipped out of their silky robes and into their incredible carnivalesque outfits for what is dubbed “the biggest fashion show on earth” – with more than 800 million watching the TV special. The spectacular started in 1995 and has been filmed in New York City, Miami, Paris, London and now Shanghai.
The finale was epic: all models and Angels came out dancing and smiling as gold confetti sprayed across the front of the stage. Lily Aldridge, Maria Borges, Sara Sampaio, Behati Prinsloo and Taylor Hill, at 21 the youngest Victoria’s Secret Angel, celebrated the breathtaking production of what can be called one of the biggest and most successful branding exercises in fashion.
A Chinese newcomer, Estelle Chen, joined the fashion industry’s most famous Chinese faces: Sui, Ming Xi, Xiao Wen Ju and Liu Wen. Xi provided the one very dramatic fall of the evening, which drew a collective gasp from the audience, and a firm arm grab from my companion sitting next to me.
The seasoned model recovered beautifully in her floral wings, blue and white lingerie with huge train; and with a little help from a fellow model, stood back up, brushed herself off and continued the rest of the runway all smiles and attitude.
Sadly, the Shanghai show also marked the last one for Brazilian supermodel Ambrosio, 36, who said that she would be hanging up her wings after 2017.
Finally, who got to wear this year’s US$2 million Fantasy Bra? Why, another Brazilian, of course. The honour went to Lais Ribeiro, who donned the heavy, Mouawad-designed bra featuring more than 600 carats and 6,000 hand-set diamonds, yellow sapphires, and blue topaz.
Victoria’s Secret didn’t disappoint when it came to the attire, made especially for the show, including a collaboration with Parisian fashion house Balmain. Themes included Punk Angel, Winter’s Tale – Liu in gigantic colourful pom poms – and Porcelain Angel, a nod to Chinese fine crafts. There was the puffa jackets, pop colours and sportswear-themed Millennial Nation tribal, and a Masai-themed collection called Nomadic Adventure. The finale, of course, was the Goddesses – a Grecian-inspired parade of golden wings, wreath headdresses and ethereal, barely-there flowing robes.
From a banned Katy Perry to rumoured 300,000 yuan (US$45,000) tickets – all the controversies from the Victoria’s Secret show in Shanghai last night
With US retail suffering and core growth for the brand centralised on the China market, holding the annual Victoria’s Secret show in Shanghai was perhaps not a huge surprise. It was the hottest ticket in town, with many people telling me that resale prices for the tickets online had reached 300,000 yuan on Taobao.
Swanepoel and Hadid might have bought some glamour to Pudong, Shanghai last night and the show, pink carpet and after-party were a glittering array of the best bodies in the world, clad in lingerie, but as the brand wrapped up its first big show in the region, it was beset by tight security, confused logistics, communication failures among organisers and mayhem at the entrances and with the seating.
Weeks before, politics overshadowed the American lingerie brand’s first show in China. Hadid and pop star Katy Perry, both expected to take to the stage, were noticeably absent, reportedly both denied entry visas to China.
“Banned!” read website headlines.
But why? It’s widely thought that Perry is banned from playing in the country because of her 2015 Taipei gig, where she performed in a sunflower dress and draped in a Taiwanese flag – a move many interpreted as support for Taiwanese independence (the sunflower was the adopted symbol of pro-independence, anti-China protests) – angering China.
Hadid meanwhile had offended the Chinese with an Instagram story where she appears to be holding up a small Buddha biscuit and squinting her eyes. Despite Perry writing a letter of appeal to China and Hadid apologising online for causing offence, it seems the Chinese government is not so quick to forgive and forget.
This is not the first time pop stars and celebrities have fallen out of favour with the Chinese government, as the likes of Lady Gaga, Oasis and Bob Dylan can attest. Recently Jon Bon Jovi and Justin Bieber were both banned from performing in the country, the former for his outspoken support of the Dalai Lama and the latter for his general “bad behaviour”.